Canon and French Folk Song

Tuesday: It’s funny how the urgency of blogging disappears when things are going relatively well. We practiced in the morning and briefly in the evening, but I didn’t blog about today’s practice (I’m writing this post on Wednesday). I recall that things went okay — and it’s hard to recall details (though they returned somewhat as I wrote this).

I believe that we worked on the Canon in the morning and then on French Folk Song in the evening.

My goal with French Folk Song is to increase M’s concentration, so I asked her to toss out the low Ds. This is the second day in a row we’re doing this. She did much better than yesterday, but she still had some surprising lapses.

Specifically, her first time through, she missed some notes, then got very flustered, then lost her place in the song and skipped an entire 4-bar section. When I asked her about her playing when she finished, she didn’t recall this.

So to improve her listening and her mental image of the song, I sang it twice: first minus the section she dropped, then with the section she dropped. I asked her the difference. She couldn’t tell me! So I did it once or twice more, until something clicked and she identified the problem (the missing section).

She is obviously not always hearing the songs in her head as she plays. I need to do more exercises like toss-out to build this habit.

From the page to the brain

We kept working on Pachelbel’s Canon and Meadow Minuet (with a Twinkle to close).

On the Canon, I tried to help M move from just reading the music to hearing it in her head. We worked mostly on the third 4-bar section, which is mostly 8th notes. After we played it through a few times, we did a few things:

  1. She tried playing it without the guitar. This was unsuccessful — whenever she wasn’t sure of a note, she just randomly tried anything rather than thinking about what the note might be.
  2. I played it, pausing after each note, singing the following note with M, and asking M: Is the next note higher, lower, or the same? She was right every time, showing that she knows the tune. So I essentially modeled for her how to use that knowledge instead of guessing random notes.
  3. I had her sing it, with the sheet music, while I just played the first note of each measure, to help keep the pitches in the ballpark. This went well, except that she missed the rhythm.
  4. We clapped the rhythm without singing it, which helped her see that the first three measures are rhythmically identical, and the fourth measure’s rhythm differs only on the last beat.

On Meadow Minuet, we worked again on the F#/B transition, specifically, on trying to hold each note for the full 3 beats rather than picking up too soon. Then M wanted to try a different section, so we worked on the first 4 bars. She has that melody down pretty well, though she made a lot of careless mistakes because of failing to attend to her hand position.

Overall, a good lesson — probably about an hour long, with only minor conflict. As her activity, she put pop-bead necklaces on herself and Felicity.


Pretty good practice today, but we started after dinner, and it might have showed in M’s concentration. We did:

  • Note reading (see-say note page @ 42 bpm)
  • Note reading/rhythyms (50-measure hurdles with fruit rhythms)
  • G scales (normal)
  • May Song, focusing on right-hand technique, then doing radio on/radio off
  • The Fuhrman Tanz
  • The A2 section of With Steady Hands

I decided to start with the note reading off of the guitar, since M finds this fun, and she was nearly flawless: she missed a single note on the see-say note page and only one or two rhythms (and they were hard ones). I have mixed feelings about working off of the instrument, but at least it gives us a positive starting point.

As for her playing, her physical technique is still pretty good (she’s playing with vigor and steadiness in the right hand), but her mental technique is a mess. The first time through May Song, she played it like a salad — instead of returning to the beginning at the repeat, she went to the middle, which she then played three times. She also cut the ending off too soon. And then, when I asked her how it went, she said she played all the right notes!

To deal with this problem, which is a concentration lapse, we did some radio on/radio off, first with her playing and then (for fun) with me playing and her directing. She did fine.

But she then blew the structure of the Fuhrman Tanz the first time through. A third time through, she did a great job, including playing with nice dynamics. Finally, she did a nice job on the A1/A2 sections of With Steady Hands. Given that we haven’t played it in a week, she did surprisingly well.

I remembered to stop on a pretty positive note. As her inter-song activity, I read to her from a Red Riding Hood picture book. And she told this joke:

Once upon a — I’m telling time!

Real progress on right hand

We again focused on open Gs and French Folk Song. M is showing real progress on her right-hand technique. She was able to play the open G more than ten times in a row with nice downward pressure, and she maintained this form when playing French Folk Song.

She has a problem transitioning from the D to the E sections, though, and consistently misses a note because she doesn’t move her right-hand finger to the proper string. So we isolated the problem and tried to work on it. The problem is mainly one of concentration and vision — she needs to look at her right hand when it’s time to move it. It’s hard to make progress on this sort of thing because she tends to stare into space rather than directing her eyes deliberately in relation to her playing.

We did about an hour of this, then went out to Chipotle. On the way there and in line, we did some rhythm sight reading, which she gets a kick out of.

Then back at home, she played May Song (her choice). She had a note accuracy problem here, too — her left pinky was reaching for the D# on the 2nd string/4th fret instead of the G on the 1st string/3rd fret. This provided an opportunity for problem analysis: She’s been playing lots of songs with similar left-hand movements, so those muscle memories have crowded out her muscle memory for this part of May Song. It was also an opportunity to talk about slowing things down when you need to solve a problem.

Not much progress on “ready – aim – shoot” — she’s still impatient, and she doesn’t have a habit of thinking about what comes next.

Maybe we need to practice counting to 20 before starting to play. Something.